It was a program to mark the death anniversary of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, whose suicide after the allegation of harassment due to his caste had jolted the country, but the event did not go as planned.
It was a program to mark the death anniversary of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, whose suicide after the allegation of harassment due to his caste had jolted the country, but the event did not go as planned. According to an Indian Express report, supporters of Left organisations who were then the stalwarts in the struggle of Dalit rights have turned into exploiters, it is being alleged now. Many members of UoH’s Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), of which Rohith was a member, feel Left organisations led by Students’ Federation of India (SFI) used his death as a platform to fan anti-ABVP sentiments and win the union elections in September.
Very few students from outfits other than the ASA took part in the programme organised on Tuesday to mark Rohith’s death anniversary.
“If Dalit organisations develop, then Left organisations cannot do politics on Dalit and tribal issues. They want Dalit organisations to always be dependent on them,” said Velpula Sunkanna, a research scholar who was suspended with Rohith and is now a Post Doctoral Fellow at IIT-Mumbai.
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Sunkanna had refused to accept his degree from Vice-Chancellor P Appa Rao last year, expressed disappointment about the issue.“First, I suggested that a Dalit candidate from any other Dalit organisation like Democratic Students’ Union or Bahujan Students’ Front or Madiga Students’ Front be nominated for the posts of president and general secretary. SFI rejected it, saying that without a candidate from SFI for the president’s post, it would be difficult to convince students to vote for them. Then I suggested that a candidate from ASA be nominated. They rejected that too. So, we fielded P Vijay Kumar. Although he did not win, he got 950 votes,” he said.
He added: “Although they need Dalit support, Left wing parties only consider their benefits and not the welfare of Dalit organisations. In Kerala, Dalit students are being attacked by Left party students. Students protesting on the Rohith Vemula issue are being beaten up because they do not want Dalit students to do anything on their own.’’
However, another ASA member said that despite the differences, they support SFI against ABVP. “Our differences do not matter much. We are against divisive forces and right-wing politics of hatred. By joining hands, we have defeated the ABVP in the elections,” says Sannaki Munna.
SFI member Kuldeep Singh Nagi, who is now the UoH students’ union president, said there was no rift with ASA. “We fully support ASA and the Rohith Vemula movement. In fact, it is the SFI which called for observing January 17 as Rohith Shahadat Din,” he said. He said the approaching NET exam on January 22 could be one of the reasons why many students did not turn up. He added that many of the students who participated in massive protests last year have now passed out and the new students may not be keen to participate in the movement yet. “Still, there were at least 150-200 students,” Nagi said.